Tuesday, May 31, 2016

If Only a Gorilla Could Speak

Image is adopted from Time For Kids

It was just a day like many other, although I’ve seen more people up there, more than the usual day. They were taking our pictures, some of them smiled, some of them laughed, some of them had the expression I didn’t understand. I saw many children, as always. I like children. They are very cute and harmless. All of us here love children and babies. They are so much fun to play with. It’s been awhile since we had a baby gorilla here.

I saw my friend Harambe by the moat. He likes playing there. Harambe is a big gorilla but he is so gentle. I feel protected whenever he’s around me. I don’t know why I feel that way especially when I know there is nothing could harm us at this place.

That day, I heard a splash of water, I thought it was one of us jumping on the moat. But it wasn’t. I saw a little cute baby human, I know it’s a human because he is nothing like us. He must have fallen to the moat from up there. Where is his mother?  I saw Harambe came towards him, I knew instantly he wanted to protect that little baby human. I knew he wanted to make sure that boy is okay. Oh that poor baby boy, he must have been so scared. Harambe tried to pull him up. He wanted to take this little boy to a safer place but then I started to hear noises, unusual noises. I heard screaming, I heard yelling, I heard fear and all I wanted to say is “Please don’t be scared, he is not going to harm the boy, don’t make him nervous, have a trust in him. He is a gentle kind” but that words never came out of my mouth.

Then I saw Harambe dragging that poor little boy, away from the moat. Harambe looked so nervous, the boy was crying.  I heard more and more screaming and then one big loud noise like the one I use to hear in the jungle.
I saw my friend Harambe laid on the ground, he did not move.  I saw some familiar human faces that always have been nice to us here came to get the boy. I am so relieve the boy was okay.  I didn’t know what happen to Harambe. I thought they just put him to sleep and he’ll be awake again soon.

It was unusual day and I keep telling myself that this is a safe place for me, for Harambe and all of my friends. We have no fear of being hunted by humans and their guns. These friendly people here are feeding us, they ensure we eat nutritious food,  they check our health regularly. Although I like it better being in my own home, being free, climbing and jumping in the wild but it seems I have no choice. They never asked me or any of my friends if we’d like to live here, maybe they did but I didn’t understand their language. Now I am doubting myself if I ever said something that they assumed as a yes.

I didn’t see Harambe the day after the accident, I don’t see him today. What is happening to him?I am worried. All of the sudden, I miss being in the wild. I miss my big friend, Harambe.

---The Voice of Gladys----

One of the female gorilla that lives in Cincinnati zoo

In a memory of Harambe, a lowland silverback gorilla (an endangered species) who was killed by Cincinnati Zoo officials on May 29th, 2016 in order to save a life of a four years old who fell into the gorilla cage.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Our Family Traditions - On Creating Memories With Our Children

I live far away from my side of the family, half way across the continent. I miss my family a lot and sometimes it hurts, but I made this life choice and I know the consequences and I am dealing with it, every single day. I could never really tell what's on my mom's and dad's mind when I had to leave the country I've known for 30 years and moved to America.

I had a good childhood growing up, I spent more time with my mom than I was with my dad. My dad was a journalist, and he travelled awful lots but when he was home, he took us to fun places. Some are places that regular Indonesian kids might not be able to visit. He could only do that  because of his special access as a journalist for the government.

The last time I saw my dad, he told me how he regretted some of the time that he lost with his children, he wished he could have had spent more time with me and my siblings. I've never blamed my father for not spending enough time with me, he had to work to provide for his family. I could not complain. I was glad my mom was always there for us, she was always the first person I saw every time I came home from school.

Now that I have family of my own, spending some quality time with my children are very important to me. My husband and I are in the same boat on this. When I used to work, I had to be away from my children for at least 9-10 hours every day but now that I have more flexibility, spending time with them  is my number one priority. As parents, what my husband and I can do more than anything else is to give them our time while they are home with us, to create memories,- something that they will remember and maybe they will pass on to their kids. We love creating family traditions.

These are our family traditions:

Crepes for dinner, sure!

Pancakes, turkey sausages and egg for dinner?, of course!

1. Breakfast For Dinner - Tuesday

In our house,  one of the fun time is dinner time and we make one night of the week an extra special night. Every Tuesday night, we eat breakfast for dinner. I cook anything that we would eat as breakfast. Each week, the menus varies; pancakes, waffles, scramble eggs, blueberry scones, crepes, French Toast, English muffins with poach eggs, or what have you. Tuesday night is a fun night for us, especially for our children because on this night they get to eat some sweet (oh, why not?); pouring maple syrup on waffle or pancake or sprinkling powdered sugar on the scones. Our family have been doing this tradition in the last 4 years and we are not planning to stop. The children are excited about Tuesday night.

2. Breakfast For Lunch - Every Other Friday

Just like Breakfast for dinner on Tuesday, in the past six months, I have provided breakfast for lunch for the children lunch box. "You have bacon and waffle for lunch? WOW, that is awesome". That was one of the comment from my kid's friends at school when they saw their lunch box.

3. Movie Night At Home - Friday or Saturday

If we don't have any plan to go out on Friday or Saturday night, that means we are having movie night at home. We will pick a family movie (almost always it's a children's movie) from Netflix, Amazon Prime or from movies on demand in our TV cable. All four of us must agree with the movie we are watching. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to pick one movie and some argumentation might happen in deciding which movie to watch. We use this time to teach our kids about compromising and negotiation.  With a big bowl of popcorn that I make, Friday night movie at home is a spot on and it's cheap.

4. Family Board Games - Friday or Saturday

If not movie, then we play board games. We have many board games to play at home; The Amazing Labyrinth, Blokus, SORRY, SCRABBLE, Dominoes, UNO, Card Games, Geusstures, Chess, Dominos, Monopoly and many more. Our house is the loudest when we're playing game. My favorite one is Guesstures, it is so fun to watch our five years old daughter trying to act out the words on the card.

5. The Weekly Family Meeting Night - Sunday

This is actually the new tradition that we have done in the past four weeks. My son suggested it and we thought it's such an excellent idea. Most Sunday nights we stay home. Right before they go to bed, we spend about 20-30 minutes to discuss about family events, we talk about things we are excited about, we talk about our family plans or individual plans and our goals. In this occasion, we encourage our children to speak up if they have any complains about us, the parents.

6. Bedtime Stories - Every Night (Almost, 95% of the time)

This is the oldest tradition we have at night and we have been doing this since my oldest was born. Although both kids can read on their own, my husband or I (mostly my husband) still read to our daughter every night. There is something really comforting about hearing my husband reads out loud to our daughter. I can hear them from across the room and it always gets me smile.

7. Reading Quietly In the Same Room for 25 Minutes

I just started this last Friday. I asked them to read any books of their choice (chapter books) quietly, in the same room with me. I read a book too. We set an alarm to run for 25 minutes. It's a nice way to have a quiet house for a straight 25 minutes. Winning!!!

He is excited about his Harlem basketball being signed by one of the players

8. Watching  Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Game

Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy. My husband watched this game a couple of times as a kid with his parents and he is repeating that tradition with us since two years ago. The team is on tour every year and we have watched them two times while they were touring in Los Angeles. It was a fun family memory to create.

The first time we decorated the house for the birthday surprise

9. Decorating The House For Birthday

Every year, the night before each of our children's birthday, my husband and I will put up some birthday decoration in the house. It's not necessary that we are going to have a birthday party for them but more like a tradition that we do every year since our oldest was 3 year old. We set the birthday gifts on the dining room table and covered them with balloons. The morning of their birthday, when the children walk to the dining room to have breakfast they will find their birthday surprise. After a few times and as they get older, they expect what's awaiting them on the morning of their birthday but it never fails to amaze them of what's waiting on the dining table. Two years ago on our son's 7th birthday, we decorated the house but we did not put any gifts on the table. We told him that this year we could not give him any birthday present. He was a little sad and he said it was okay. He was happy enough that we still managed to decorate the house. Then I asked him to walk to the kitchen with me to get breakfast and to pick which cereals he wanted to eat that morning. We put the cereals boxes on the top of the fridge and among those boxes was a box of his new video game, an X-BOX ONE. He saw it and he cried. Tears of joy. It was priceless.
Now we have to think of some other way to celebrate this birthday tradition, something unexpected.

A few of Holiday decorations at The Grove in Los Angeles

10. Seeing the Holiday Lights Decoration at The Grove in LA

The Grove is an outdoor mall located in Los Angeles, near Hollywood. We go to The Grove so many times, not until during the Holiday seasons. But Holiday seasons (from Thanks Giving to Christmas) make The Grove extra fun to visit. With its holiday light decorations and the fake snow, our family get to enjoy the festivities. We have been doing this since before our oldest was born. We never miss a year without visiting The Grove on Holidays.

I do hope my children will fond of these memories that have become our family traditions. Who knows  they might pass this along with their own family someday?.

There are many things we can do together with our children as part of our traditions in creating those fond memories with the people we love the most.

Now, can you share your family tradition with me?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Day I Murdered Barnes and Noble

Not so long ago, I rant or more like showing excitement on my Facebook status about how much I love libraries and books stores. Yes! book stores, and I am beyond grateful that in this era of online shoppings, book stores still exist.

In America, the biggest book store chain is Barnes and Noble. There used to be two Barnes and Noble book stores within 5 miles of our house. One is closed down three years ago because of  the bad economy and one still stands tall. Although, there are still some Barnes and Noble stores across the country and the state, the numbers of the stores are no longer as many as they used to.

Almost every week I take my children to Barnes and Noble, we like shopping for books on discount (if any) or just finding books that we can buy within our budget for the month. We buy 10 - 20 books each year from them and the rest we borrow from the libraries. Sometimes, when we have nothing to do on a weekend afternoon, we visit Barnes and Noble just to hang out and read books without buying anything.

At Barnes and Nobles - How much they enjoy the book store

Two days ago, after picking up my children from school, we went to Barnes and Noble, we wanted to get a book or two for my oldest son. He ran out of books to read. He had books in mind. My son has some favorite authors and found two books that he likes but the price are not within our budget. That afternoon, I only wished to spend not more than $20 for him but the cost of the books he choose are about $15 each.

Then I quickly checked Amazon.com for those books on my phone. I don't buy books from Amazon for the kids (I somewhat want to support the existence of Barnes and Noble, my favorite traditional book store, by keep buying children's books there), I mostly buy books from Amazon only for my Kindle Fire.  The dollar amount listed for the books on Amazon are half of what Barnes and Noble offered. I did a quick math in my head and then asked my son if he would be patient enough to wait until Thursday if I ordered the books from Amazon because it's cheaper. He agreed.

When we were home, I looked for the books he wanted, then I look some more and more and more. I also looked for some books for my daughter. These two kids need to be occupied during Summer   and one of my mission is to get them into reading. I ended up ordering 11 books total but with the price I paid for Amazon and free shipping because I have Prime membership, is away cheaper than what I have to pay if I buy them from Barnes and Nobles.

The books arrived today and one will be arriving tomorrow. When my son opened the box, I realized I ordered one book twice. So we have extra book. Then I went online to return that one book I mistakenly ordered. Guess what? Amazon refunded my money but I don't have to return the book.  We are planning to give it to his friend.

As I looked at my children's excitement as they were opening the box, I have a slight guilt. I felt that I have betrayed Barnes and Noble. I secretly apologizing to my favorite book store and making excuses why I did what I did. "Sorry 'Barnie and Nobbie', I don't have the liberty to spend three digit dollars on books this month. I need them so desperately for Summer. The library sometimes doesn't have the books they want to read.  He is a picky reader as he used to be a picky eater. I didn't meant to hurt you".

Today, I murdered Barnes and Noble, my favorite book store, my favorite place to hang out with my kids and I felt horrible. But my wallet is happy.

Books for my son. I mistakenly ordered one book twice but look at his face. He's overjoyed.

Books for him and her

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss's Books for Our Children and for Ourselves

I was at a bookstore looking for new books to buy for my children. As the escalator took me up the second floor where children’s books are, I was welcomed by a gorgeous display of Oh The Places You’ll Go, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss’ s book.

I did not grow up reading his books, in fact Dr. Seuss was not very popular in Indonesia, at least not when I was a kid. I started to enjoy reading Dr. Seuss’s book since I had children of my own.
As a parent, I like Dr. Seuss’ book because  they are good for beginner readers, his books teach admirable life lesson, and the words rhyme. I like rhyming words.

To very young children, the message on some of Dr. Seuss's books might not be very clear, therefore it is important for us parents, to read it to them or make them understand the lessons behind each stories. The first time I ever read Horton Hears a Who to Owen when he was in kindergarten he had no idea what the story was about other than a big elephant trying to safe little creatures from being destroyed. I had to explain to him what's the hidden message behind the story.

My excitement to see Dr. Seuss's books on displays at Barnes and Noble, wanting me to write this article and to share what I think about some of his books that I have read to my children.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

This book is my favorite. I enjoy reading this to my children, I even enjoy reading this to myself. To me this book is powerful. I somewhat feel connection with this book. As a kid, I always loved hearing stories from my dad every time after he came home from his job assignments in another country or another islands in Indonesia. My dad once said when he was in high school he never dreamt of being rich, all he wanted was to travel the world and to share stories. He loved story telling and his wishes came true. He worked as a journalist. He steered his life to a direction he chose.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself
any direction you choose”.

This book teaches children that they determine their own destiny. They can be whatever they want to be if they put their mind to it. Heck, it is not only for children, this book inspired and motivated me as a grown up.

In the future, when my children are graduating from colleges, I will keep reminding them of this great line in the book, “You’re off to great places! Today is your today. Your mountain is waiting, so you get on your way!”.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

I was a book worm when I was a kid. I'd rather read a book than playing with my friends. I could stay up late to read books. I was always looking for new books to read, when I had no more, I read newspapers, magazines, and sometimes (don't laugh), I read manual instructions on my father's speakers, CB radios, and amplifier.

I want my children to enjoy reading too and I told my children so many times that they will learn a lot from reading. Reading will broaden their universe and their knowledge. I wish I had more time reading now like I used to when I was a kid.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

This book teaches children to be curious of their surrounding, and to never stop learning. Knowledge is power and reading book will take them to so many amazing places.

Oh, The Think You Can Think
My husband and I love taking our children to see children’s movies in the movie theatre. One day after a movie, my son said he would like to build a movie theatre in which every stall in the restroom will have a small screen. That way if the audiences need to use the restroom they can continue watching the movie while doing their business, so they won’t miss a scene. He came up with this idea after I had to go to the restroom and missed one important scene of the movie. It wasn't the first time he had this crazy wild idea. He shared many ideas with us, some of those ideas sound impossible but it's always fun to hear them.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high.Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try”.
This book teaches young children the nature of thoughts, imagination, possibility and reality.  It encourages children they are capable of enormous creativity. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

The Lorax
Recently, my son was assigned to create a habitat of endanger animals. He chose The Sumatran Rhino (to honor his mom who is Indonesian,-proud moment here). He learned a great deal about Sumatran Rhino and he was saddened by the fact that there are only less than 100 Sumatran Rhino left. Last year, I was outraged when I learned about the fire of the forests in Sumatra and Borneo island. I shared this tragedy with my son. I explained to him how it happened and why it happened. Human can be greedy, human can be irresponsible.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
We have the books at home and we watched the movie. The Lorax teaches children about caring for the unspeakable, the trees, the animals, the environment as a whole. If you want a better world, you have to care. We can make difference, and it starts with taking responsibilities and speaking up.
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Who else will care for the environment if not us, the caregiver of this planet.

Green Eggs and Ham
Although I don’t eat ham and I don’t really like egg, but I love Green Eggs and Ham. I LOVE reading this book to my children. I love the rhyming on it and I love the life lesson behind it.
“You do not like them so you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.”
This book teaches children about being persistence and how to overcome obstacles. It was through persistence the character named Sam-I-am finally got the unnamed character to try the green eggs and ham. Persistence pays off. Persistence is one thing that is lacking in me and I certainly don't want my children to pass this. I want them to be persistence. This book also teaches children not to be afraid to explore and try new things. Green eggs and ham? sounds crazy, but how would you say you don't like it if you haven't tried it?

Yertle The Turtle
Yertle The Turtle is a king, a leader. A bad one. He is extremely ambitious and has no regard for the people he ruled. If you are a boss, a group leader, a parent, a husband, a wife, a big brother, a big sister don't be like Yertle.

"You've no right to talk to the world's highest turtle. I rule from the clouds! Over sea! There is nothing, no NOTHING, that's higher than me"
“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights”.

This book teaches children, and us adults about leadership and equal rights. It is a reminder not to climb over people on your way to the top, because they’re the same people you’ll see on your way back down.

Horton Hears A Who
I read the book to my children, and we also watched the movie. There are many life lessons in this story, but the main thing is about respect, compassion, tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness.
“A person’s a person no matter how small”.
If someone is weaker and smaller than us, does not give us the right be to mean. Learning to accept that other people are different is one of the most important lesson that children need to learn. In an essence, there is an anti-bullying message in this story. 

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant” , Horton teaches me about integrity, and once a promise is made, we must keep it.

The Cat In The Hat
The most read Dr. Seuss’s books we have at home is The Cat in The Hat. As I am writing this, I am thinking what this book really teaches us? I thought there is really nothing to the story other than Sally and her big brother are having fun with a stranger (the cat) while their mother is away.
Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!. It is fun to have fun. You just have to know how.”
Voila! It  teaches children to have fun. The Cat In The Hat celebrates fun and responsibility. The kids in the books want to have fun but they also want to honor their mother’s wishes by being responsible. Learning to balance pleasure and responsibility is one of the hardest lesson as we grow up.

The books I mentioned above are not the only great books with great life lesson that Dr. Seuss wrote, there are many more: 

Happy Birthday To You teaches the kids about being true to themselves.

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? teaches children about gratitude.
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish teaches children about diversity and embracing change.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas teaches children about the true meaning of Holiday.
Gertrude Mc Fuzz teaches children about loving yourself

I wish I read Dr. Seuss’ books when I was a kid, I could’ve used many of his life lesson while I was growing up. However, I am glad I get to learn his wise life lessons now that I am a mother.

As a mother: 

The Cat In The Hat teaches me that it is okay to have a messy house. I want my children to have fun, lots of fun especially at home. They can be messy but as long as they clean up their mess, I am ok. In the end, a clean home is a happy home. 

Yertle The Turtle teaches me that even though I am a mother, and I rule the house, I also need to listen to what my children have to say. Only by listening I can understand them. I am a better mom when I listen to them.

Horton Hears A Who teaches me that I have to mean what I said and I said what I meant. If I want my children to have integrity, then I should be Horton. I should not make promise I can't keep. I need to build that trust between me and my children.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go teaches me the importance of building confidence in my children self esteem. There were times when my son felt left behind because his friends thought he was not good at playing kickball at school. I told him he can only get better if he keeps practicing. His dad takes him to practice kickball, we enrolled him into baseball class. He is now a different boy that he was a couple of weeks ago. He gained more confident while playing kickball at school. He scored a couple of home run that made his friends cheered for him.

“Oh the places you'll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.” 

Oh Dr. Seuss, you're the man of words, you make my life worth. Thank you for your wise life lessons.

Which Dr. Seuss's books is your favorite?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

On The Day I Don't Have to do House Chores

Before I was a mother, I loved the idea of Mother’s Day.  It’s the day I celebrate the woman who gave birth to me and who raised me and my siblings with all her heart. I enjoyed celebrating the day of the most unselfish woman on earth I have ever known, my mother.

Then I got married. My husband and I enjoyed each other for three years before we decided to have a family. We’re lucky the process of baking the “bun in the oven” was not that laborious for us. Then I entered the world of motherhood. A tough world that I wish someone, especially my mother would have told me more about. I have been in so many different professional jobs before and by far, motherhood is the most difficult job I have ever experienced. This job requires the highest level of education on earth which technically does not exist. No level of degree will ever prepare myself for this job and even to this day, after doing it for almost ten years I still don’t think I am good at it. It is a job that noone can ever be called ‘an expert’. A very progressive job and I am still progressing.

I have been so fulfilled with motherhood. Everyday with my children is like a dream come true. We have the most fun. Being a mother has been my most favorite thing. It is not because that’s how I was told to feel. It’s not because being a mother is better than being a doctor or a lawyer or a journalist or whatever. Certainly not because I am biologically wired that way. I have to go through so many pain to make babies, emotionally. Many chemicals are involved. But I am so fulfilled by motherhood and feel so honored and lucky to get to do it. I suspect it is for the same reason I like noodle soup and have wide nose: because I came out that way, for whatever reason.

Since I became a mother, I don’t always like the idea of Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day has always been about my mom, not me. Oh by the way,  celebration of Mother’s Day in Indonesia is on December 22nd.  I have a mix feeling about it, like right now, a day before the day. I sometime don’t like the sanctimonious tone it can take. I don’t like to propagate the idea that every mothers should feel most fulfilled by the same thing. I don’t like the smug self sacrifice, I don’t like the idea just because we got knocked up we deserve some kind of recognition. And if you haven’t been that, you don’t qualify. I don’t know why I feel this way sometimes. It must have come from a sore place; stories about how horrible a mother can be, whereas there are many wonderful women out there who did not get this recognition even though they want it so badly and they have been trying and waiting patiently to make it happen.

But, I do love my children. I love my days with them. I love how they make me laugh, how they make me proud, how they make me upset, how they make me worries, how they make me question my sanity.  I love my faulty hormones, I love how my body changed because of them. I really do. It’s just like a constant reminder to me that I once carried two babies in my uterus and I took care of that growing uterus and the babies inside it for 9 months, twice. I love how I had the healthiest lifestyle when I carried them in my womb. I love my college education and I love my sometimes feminist rants combined with my conservatives values that make people rolled their eyes on me. I love how I feel empowered to be a woman and a mother. I love how I discovered my multiple talents since I became a mother and I have my progesterone hormone to thank for, I guess. I love the reminder once a year to celebrate my own mother, who is the least selfish and the most fiercest woman on the planet earth. She is the epitome of hard work, faith and love, positive attitude, and she is the smartest woman who is so good in math that I have ever known. My own mother is a force.

A few weeks ago when I learned one of my ex-coworker that I closely worked with adopted a baby, I was in tears. She is one of the sweetest woman I have ever known. She has been married for longer than I have but she was not given the most wonderful gift a woman can get until she and her husband decided to adopt a baby. I respect her and her husband even more for that.  This Mother’s Day will be the first Mother’s Day for her. I am so thrilled she gets to celebrate it. She deserves the recognition. She deserved it even before she adopted a baby.

On this mother's day I want to celebrate the women who are still waiting for the store to open so they can bake their bun in the oven. I want to celebrate the women who do not have the bun in the oven and buy it instead. I want to celebrate the women who are so good at taking care of other women’s bun even though they never make a batch themselves. I want to celebrate the women like me, the un-flawless one, who sometimes yelled at her kids when she is occupied with anxiety.

Cheers to me, and to us because tomorrow I don't have to worry about house chores!!!